This winter promises to be one like Europeans have not seen in many decades as war continues to rage in Ukraine and energy supplies dwindle. But as much as the EU and neighboring countries wish to put all blame on Russia’s February invasion, the roots of the crisis go back much further.
And to the other side of the Atlantic.
Dependence on natural gas exports from an unreliable neighbor took time to build, as did turning backs on proven energy sources. In 1972, the continent relied on the old Soviet Union for only 4% of its gas consumption.
Fast forward to 2021, and that number almost touched 40%.
Meanwhile, the continent continued its “green energy transition” while at the same time increasing reliance on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s gas imports. This proved to be a serious miscalculation.
Now countries are scrambling to find a fix, and cracks are appearing in the wall of support for sanctioning and isolating Moscow.
However, another major aspect of that blunder deserves attention, and blame for this falls on the U.S. side of the Atlantic. Particularly with President Joe Biden and his shortsighted administration.
A few weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine-
Biden surprised EastMed partners by abruptly withdrawing U.S. support for the pipeline-
Effectively killing the project, preventing a diversified energy supply to Europe, and further assuring Putin's energy blackmail against Europe. https://t.co/TzlO7SyZYD
— Lawyerforlaws (@lawyer4laws) November 13, 2022
In 2017, an agreement between Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and Israel was reached to support the East Mediterranean Pipeline (EastMed). This $6.7 billion gas pipeline project would improve European energy security through diversified routes and sources.
Further, it would decrease the continent’s now-critical reliance on Russian gas.
It garnered the backing of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and other Gulf nations along with the EU and United States.
But now enter the Biden White House. In order to appease Turkey, which militarily challenged EastMed as part of its pro-Putin and anti-Israeli stance, the administration did a sharp course reversal.
Just weeks before Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine, EastMed partners were surprised by Biden’s withdrawal of U.S. support. The White House gave the predictable excuse that EastMed did not agree with its “climate goals.”
Never mind the security and energy goals of a closely allied continent. U.S. withdrawal from the $6.7 billion project effectively killed it, and along with it a major initiative to diversify European dependence on the Kremlin to keep its citizens warm in the winter.
A mixture of cold homes and skyrocketing energy bills will fuel a winter of discontent in Europe without a radical and unexpected surprise. For this and much more, the world can look to the Biden administration and marvel at its short-sighted leadership.